There were two Test matches underway in the world. One was happening at Trent Bridge in England, the other was happening virtually. Both the Test matches were heading to an interesting climax.
The virtual Test match ended finally and that too on a dramatic note with huge sums being pocketed by the BCCI by the sale of the IPL media rights.
The entire process to decide the winner of the IPL media rights was in itself as thrilling as the tournament itself. In that sense, the nearly three-day process matched the Test match in Trent Bridge in drama and excitement.
The final figure of Rs 48,390 crore is a whopping sum for the next five years with two broadcasters on board for the subcontinent, including Disney Star and Viacom 18. Times Internet is on board as a broadcaster for MENA, the rest of the world and the United States.
World Leaders in Cricket
This means that for the first time, officially, the IPL will have three broadcasters.
Digital (India) – Viacom18 (410 matches, Rs 50 cr/match)
TV (India) – Star Sports (410 matches, Rs 57.5 cr/match)
Australia, South Africa, UK – Viacom18 (98 matches, Rs 33.24 cr/match)
Rest of the world, US – Times Group (410 matches, Rs 2.6 cr/match)
The writing is now on the wall – IPL is officially the world leader in cricket and every other format will be a follower from now on. This is in addition to the Rs 12,000 crore the BCCI made from the sale of the Lucknow and Gujarat franchises in 2021. So, in all, the BCCI have gained a total of Rs 60,000 crores in the last eight months.
Presently, we have factored in around a maximum of 74 matches per season for 2023 and 2024, but progressively it could go up to 94 matches for the year 2027. That means more time taken for each season to be completed. The 2022 season lasted two months, and in the coming years, the IPL tournament could last close to 90 days.
That means around 120 days out of 365 days in a calendar blocked by IPL both pre and post tournaments. So international cricket for the Indian team will be in and around these dates that will be available. The number of international engagements as a result, especially for the Indian team could go down that much more. Already, we see a number of bilateral white ball series appearances for India’s top players becoming limited. In a few years, that could go down further as the players would need down time.
Also, this would mean that the players, even though centrally contracted by the BCCI, will never really be under their control. This has been a constant struggle as the players, most of them are fighting fit, even at the cost of missing a lot of domestic cricket as well, by the time the IPL comes around. We saw some shining examples of that this year. In the coming years, the players could get out of the BCCI net in that sense slowly but surely. Maybe not all, but some who are out of the central contract net of the BCCI.
The Roll-On Effect
The whole franchise vs country debate could rage on but it is here to stay.
International cricket, especially bilateral series, is going to find it difficult to find broadcasters in the coming years. This deal has sort of sounded the death knell, slowly but surely for bilateral cricket worldwide. Especially the white ball bilateral cricket is going to find fewer takers. Already the number of ODI matches have gone down. With someone like former India head coach and captain Ravi Shastri calling for the reduction in T20I bilateral matches, that count is likely to go down as well.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) will go to market next with their rights package for the next cycle. It will be interesting to see how they manage to entice the very same broadcasters or is there someone else in the market who might emerge.
That will be very interesting to look out for. Also, the BCCI too will be in the market very soon for their own bilateral matches, that will be one to watch out for as well.
The biggest takeaway of the broadcast deal is the obvious, that digital is the new king. Linear TV still rules the roost in India, but the way digital has earned money for the BCCI through the IPL media rights sale, it is an eye opener. The entire IPL digital rights sale grew more than 50 percent over the base price with the combined package of B and C going to Viacom18.
The TV rights sale went for just a 17 percent rise over the base price. That tells you in the coming years, digital consumption is going to increase. It also means that the executives at Viacom18 have crunched the numbers well and know something about the upcoming boom better than us.
How the Viacom18 team will recover the massive sums committed will be interesting to watch. Thus far, digital has been second to linear TV in India, but now they will have to match the market leaders in earning advertising revenues. How the two divide the market and earn the advertising pie is going to be interesting viewing. Is there an appetite for both platforms? We will know soon for sure.
But you, the end consumer, remember to buy a subscription for Viacom18’s digital platform right away, you don’t want to delay it any further, else you may end up paying a higher fee.
One big worry with so much money being staked by the parties is whether we will get to see the actual match action without any delay. There would be a need or demand to squeeze in as many advertisements as possible between overs. It should not come at the cost of the action, as we have seen at times in the past. The over needs to start and end without too much fuss, but that is going to keep the personnel in the production control rooms (PCRs) on their toes.
Over-rate was a big casualty at this year’s IPL, next year onwards, even if games stretch up to four and a half hours, the two main broadcasters will not mind one bit. More air time means more ad slots, more chances of recovery for the two broadcasters.
Sharing is Caring
The ultimate benefit of all this money being raised needs to reach the unsung players, those who don’t get picked by the franchises, grounds, facilities at the grounds, age-group (male and female) players, curators, and all the allied personnel in the cricketing ecosystem.
We have seen no improvement in the facilities at the grounds or the grounds per se in the previous few years. The unsung players at all levels have had a struggle to get their funds released during the pandemic. Only the former players have got their pension fund increased a day before the official announcement of the broadcast rights.
Till there is a benefit to the final man/woman in the cricketing food chain, this kind of increase in broadcast revenue will only continue to benefit the creamy layer.
Now is the perfect time to announce a contract system for all players across age groups across both genders across all states. This will ensure that all the players can stay invested in the sport irrespective of whether they make it to the IPL gravy train or not. Similar contracts are needed for all the other personnel so that they can be connected with the system.
Perhaps in the coming months with all this money coming in, the BCCI can finally hire a full-time CEO, instead of asking their IPL COO to fill in a role. And just while they are hiring a full-time CEO, they could also put in place a full-fledged communications team. Afterall, it is time to give the sources a break after all the hard yards that they have done over the past three years.
The big bang announcement of IPL media rights sale also came via social media rather than a proper official communication, which tells you everything.
Maybe some things will never change, for everything else there is IPL anyways.
Meanwhile, while the virtual Test match came to an end finally, the Trent Bridge Test was headed to an interesting finish.
Ultimately cricket is the winner!